January 7, 2011

Religious Vocations Supplement

Academically talented seminarian loves life, serving the Church

Seminarian Danny Bedel stands outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad on Dec. 9. Bedel, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg, is in the first year of his graduate theological studies at Saint Meinrad. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Seminarian Danny Bedel stands outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad on Dec. 9. Bedel, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg, is in the first year of his graduate theological studies at Saint Meinrad. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By Sean Gallagher

When Daniel “Danny” Bedel graduated in 2006 from North Decatur High School in Decatur County as the valedictorian of his class, he could have studied at many first-class universities in fields that would be financially lucrative and socially prestigious.

But Bedel instead chose to become a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. If, God willing, he is ordained a priest in a few years, he won’t earn a large salary. Nor will he be seen as a mover and shaker in society.

When Bedel shared his decision to enter the seminary with others during his senior year in high school, a friend of his, who also excelled academically but was a self-avowed atheist, was astonished.

“He was like, ‘Why? Why are you going to throw that talent away?’ ” recalled Bedel, 22, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg. “I just told him, ‘Well, I believe that I’m going to be doing much more good for people with this than I could with any other profession I could choose.’ ”

Although many people and events led him to discern a possible call to the priesthood, Bedel came to peace with it while praying in his parish church before school one day during his senior year.

“It just hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said. “This is what I want to do with my life.

“What other life could compare with this? That moment of a deep sense of fulfillment has always kind of kept me going, even before I joined the seminary. And that fulfillment really hasn’t ever sputtered out.”

Bedel is in his first year of graduate theological studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

He is the oldest child of Tom and Mary Bedel, and has four younger brothers and a sister. Faith was at the center of their life in their rural Decatur County home, which is less than a mile from their parish church.

“Our faith was always very important to us,” said Mary Bedel, who teaches at St. Nicholas School in Ripley County. “We prayed the rosary. We’d go to the Stations of the Cross during Lent. When he [Danny] was little, I’d read him stories from the Bible before he’d go to bed.

“Being a good person and being a good Catholic was what mattered the most. Being the smartest person or the greatest athlete or the most popular person isn’t what matters.”

Faith didn’t simply form the habit of prayer in the Bedel family. It also served as the ultimate foundation for a healthy and happy life in their family home.

“They’re my best friends,” Danny said of his parents and siblings. “I just love going home to visit my family. We play basketball together. We play paintball together. We watch movies together. We’re pretty close.”

“He enjoys life,” Tom Bedel said. “When he comes home for the weekend, it’s like a party atmosphere.”

Ben Lutterbach was a high school friend of Bedel and often joined in the fun. They shared similar interests in music, sports and books.

But they differed in matters of faith. In high school, Lutterbach was a Baptist. So they often had friendly debates about their religious beliefs.

“Just for fun, I’d take the devil’s advocate, just for the sake of good fun in having an argument,” he said. “We’d talk about a lot of stuff. And I actually learned a lot [from him], too.”

In part because of his friend’s good example, Lutterbach was received into the full communion of the Church in 2009.

“When Danny talks about Catholicism and the faith, he’s very positive, very happy,” Lutterbach said. “My wife [whom Danny knew while in high school] always put it really well. She says that he makes you want to know what he’s so happy about.”

Bedel was also formed in his faith by the example of priests who served at his home parish. Father Patrick Commons, who died at age 86 last October, stood out among them.

“In a lot of ways, he was my spiritual grandpa,” Bedel said. “Whenever we would talk or get together, he would have all these stories he would tell of his experiences. They were fun to listen to, and very inspiring in a lot of ways.

“He was just such a happy [priest]. His smile would brighten your day.”

Father Robert Robeson, the rector of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, directed Bedel’s first four years of priestly formation when he was a student there from 2006-10.

He likes the fact that the former high school valedictorian is putting his talents to the service of the Church.

“We need the best,” Father Robeson said. “We need the people who are talented as priests.

“Danny is a very, very talented young man. He could do whatever he wanted to do. The fact that he responded to the call to the priesthood is a sign that he’s cooperating with God’s grace in his life.”

While at Bishop Bruté, Bedel taught himself how to play the piano and organ in order to assist with liturgical music at the seminary.

“It was a desire [of his] to contribute to the community,” Father Robeson said. “He was always a good example for the other guys. He was somebody that the other guys looked at as someone who’s authentically trying to live the life [of a seminarian].”

Bedel looks forward to continuing this life of service as a priest in a few years.

“Even though I feel fulfilled in the sense that I know that this is where I need to be right now, I almost wonder to myself how awesome is it going to be when I say that first Mass,” Bedel said. “How ecstatic is it going to be when I raise that host up and say, ‘This is my body.’ ”

(To learn more about seminarian Daniel Bedel, other seminarians of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis or about how to become a seminarian, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

Daniel “Danny” Bedel

  • Age: 22
  • Parents: Tom and Mary Bedel
  • Home Parish: St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg
  • Favorite saint: St. Joseph. “He’s a great example for all fathers, be they spiritual or in a family setting.”
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: The rosary
  • Favorite spiritual author: Blessed John Henry Newman
  • Hobbies: Running, watching movies (Sherlock Holmes is his current favorite), playing paintball and basketball.

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